THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!!!!!!

>So because I put the title of this blog in a caps with a lot of exclamation points behind it I am assuming you thought this would be an excited blog post about the wonders of football and massively expensive commercials. Sorry, but that’s not what this is about. I understand why the Super Bowl is a big deal for some people but what I don’t get is the food people eat during the Super Bowl.

I may be exposed to more of this because the Packers are in the Super Bowl this year but when I was grocery shopping yesterday I saw green muffins…they were literally green. And after looking at the label it realized they weren’t moldy but in fact dyed that way for Packer fans…am I the only one that finds green muffins odd? Aside from dying food the color of the teams playing everything else is consumed during Super Bowl Sunday is just mega unhealthy. Why not eat green peppers, cucumbers and guacamole? They’re green! I understand the desire to eat fried foods, hamburgers, chicken wings and a lot of cheese but throwing in alcohol? There’s nothing worse than a massive fried food baby and a hangover.

And what is the fascination with eating food shaped like a football or a football helmet? Does it make cookies or cheese taste better? What about the large beer and chip displays at the grocery store? The beer spells out “Go Pack” and the chips look like a football field…equipped with goal posts and yard lines. That’s a lot of work for a football game!

To each his own though I guess! I will be celebrating the Super Bowl with a frozen cheese pizza that I will add mushrooms and green peppers to while reading a book on Global Media Ethics. What about you?

Cereal Transition Combos

>I know I am not the only one out there who has an obsession/love of cereal [mine me be closer to loving it but I know there are definitely people out there who are obsessed!]. My love of cereal stems, like most people’s, from childhood breakfasts. I used to eat Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, and Apple Jacks just like everyone. But for some reason, my mom wouldn’t let me each chocolate cereals. So when I got to high school I started buying my own cereal and fell in love with Cocoa Puffs. Now that my daily breakfast usually consists of toast and coffee in stead of cereal I eat it for other meals.

I still like to eat the sugary cereals once in awhile (especially Berry Berry Kix –> has to be the ‘berry berry’ kind because the plain kind is boring) but my new “adult” cereals are apple cinnamon cheerios and multigrain cheerios. I recommend trying them both! Both are pretty healthy, as far as cereal goes without having to eat All Bran, and both are very tasty!

I am, however, NOT one of those people who can eat cereal without milk. I think the beauty of milk of the combination of cold milk and crunchy cereal! I am also not a fan of warm cereal…I have started making myself eat oatmeal when I know I need something substantial to get me through a long morning but it is not the most enjoyable flavor or texture (I even eat the cinnamon/sugar kind and add fruit…).

So here’s the most important caveat to eating cereal. When you get to the end of box and there’s not enough cereal for an entire bowl do you eat a small bowl of cereal that morning, eat that bowl and then half of your next box, or do you mix the two together? This might not be as much of a question if you eat the same cereal all the time but I rotate between types to keep things interesting! I usually don’t have the time to eat two bowls of cereal and find only eating half a bowl of cereal not an option. So, I usually mix my options together! I have had everything from Apple Cinnamon Cheerios and Lucky Charms to Cocoa Puffs and Apple Jacks. I think it makes breakfast more interesting and the end of/beginning of cereal a lot more fun!

What do you do? What are some of the best/worst cereal transition combos you’ve had?!

Also, why don’t cereals put surprises in boxes anyone? Is it the type of cereal I eat or do cereals just not put toys in there anymore?

Holidays and such

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Sorry for the month-long hiatus from blogging! I know it’s not an excuse but access to the internet at my parents’ central Wisconsin home is not exactly stellar! Obviously, I went home for a the holidays but then just decided to take a break from the blogging thing!

But I’m back! So in observance of the commercialized, family-filled holidays I celebrate my first post is going to be about the non-traditional dessert I made a couple weeks after the holidays ended!

Around Thanksgiving I found this recipe for a pumpkin chocolate torte. I had a pumpkin filling (basically like pumpkin pie) and then a homemade chocolate graham cracker crust. However, the recipe called for heavy cream and I didn’t have that. So the next time I went to the grocery store I bought the cream…but I didn’t have time to make the torte until a couple weeks later and the cream had gone bad. The second time I bought the cream it also went bad. Then I decided I was going to make it at home over the holidays, only to actually read the entire recipe and realize that I needed a tart pan (which I didn’t have). So, my mom ordered one off Amazon for me and when I came back to Madison I bought another container of heavy cream (the smallest one by the way was way way way more than I needed so I ended up finding this website [http://www.supercook.com/] where you can type in the ingredient you have and it will give you a recipe that you can make! So, I ended up making cream scones which were really good!).

I mixed the filling which was pretty easy but I was supposed to crush the graham crackers and make the crust in a food processor. My food processor is a mini one that I got for $5 the day after Thanksgiving two years ago at WalMart so I had to improvise. I ended up doing the crust in three mini batches but it seems to have turned out fine. The tart ended up being pretty good, not too sweet and really good with whipped cream!

But the worst thing about it was that after I made it and baked it for an hour, I had to let it chill for 2 hours (minimum!) before I could eat any. What is that about!??! I am all about instant gratification when cooking or baking…

Moral of this post: read the ENTIRE recipe before starting because you may need a tart pan or a full-sized food processor to finish it and may need to prepare yourself to wait 2 hours for something that smells mega good!

Pros and Cons of Zas

>Last night I went to dinner at Zas with a bunch of people for a friend’s birthday and I actually have a lot to say about Zas.

1) Pro: The Zas cups – They are huge and there are free refills and you can take them home to use because they aren’t like normal to-go cups. I have also heard you can use them to play something called “Zas pong” with them…apparently it is a form of beer pong but my intense because Zas cups are bigger than normal beer pong cups. I like getting a drink because of the free refills!

2) Pro: There are so many different options that everyone in a large group should be able to find something to eat (if they can’t…then send them home because there are a ton of options and they’re being whiny if they say they can’t find something to get).

3) Con: Because of #3 there are usually a lot of loud groups (usually of freshmen because they travel in packs) and it can be hard to find a spot to sit.

4) Pro: They now offer whole wheat noodles which is a great because I used to try and stay away from the pasta because I prefer to eat whole wheat.

5) Pro: Their make your own pasta is great. The price stays the same and all you have to do is choose your ingredients based on a point system (you get 4 points – veggies are usually 1 and meat is usually 2). If I get pasta I usually get whole wheat rotini with pesto sauce, broccoli, mushrooms and either chicken or artichokes and tomatoes.

6) Con: the people who go there to get mac and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs confuse me. Why pay $8 for something you can make at home for a quarter of the price? Get something like pesto (which is complicated to make and a little on the pricey side) or a unique panini!

7) Pro/Con: I don’t know how to label this one but it is about their desserts. I have always wanted to get one of their desserts (cheesecake, tiramisu) but they are on the pricey side so I never have.

8) Con: If you don’t get there right after they have cleaned tables and trash receptacles it can be pretty nasty…the bathroom is usually pretty decent though.

9) Pro: You get a full meal that isn’t a burger or tacos for less than $10 and usually really fast. The longest I have ever had to wait was 20 minutes because their toaster oven for the garlic bread you get with most orders was broken and they had to make the bread in a smaller backup toaster so it was taking a really long time…but trust me, their garlic bread is pretty good and worth the wait.

10) Con: I have never had a panini but their pastas and soups tend to be a little overly salty. And their salads are nothing special so don’t waste your time…go straight for the pasta or soup.

So it looks like the Pros come out on top with 6 of the 10 entries. I don’t crave Zas and it isn’t my first suggestion if I’m getting dinner with a friend but it is good for a larger group of people or friends who like different foods. I will probably go back sometime soon with another group of friends and maybe I’ll get a dessert then!

Have you been to Zas and agree or disagree with me? Have YOU ever had their dessert or is it too expensive for you too? Let me know!

Semi-homemade

>I am a huge fan of semi-homemade (not the show…Sandra Lee freaks me out…but the mode of cooking!). I find the best spaghetti sauce is one where you take a jar of sauce and add a bunch of ingredients to it. Recently I did this and had a really great dinner!

I bought a low sodium, no sugar added jar of tomato basil store brand sauce. It was really cheap and didn’t really have a lot of flavor by itself. But when I added some garlic powder, hot sauce, a can of mushrooms and some ground beef (that was cooked with onions and garlic). The sauce turned out really well and took less than 30 minutes! If I had to make that sauce from scratch it would have taken a lot more time…I don’t even know how to make sauce from real scratch. The only thing I can think of would be to combine tomatoes and tomato paste but those both come out of cans! I think I’ll stick with semi-homemade!

I put the sauce on top of some tri-color cheese tortellini. It was really good! Then, I had leftovers and the last day I had sauce left but not tortellini. So I made a chicken breast and put the sauce on top…tasty!

Have any dishes you make semi-homemade because the from-scratch version would take absolutely way too long? Let me know!

Non-traditional Thanksgiving

>This is the first year I have not been able to make it to the annual family gathering in my hometown. Instead, my parents came down to my tiny tiny apartment with my dog. There were only three of us and none of us are particularly big fans of turkey so we decided to make a non-traditional meal. My parents brought down steak and a veggie tray, and I made crescent rolls (sort of traditional but an absolute must!) and chocolate, pecan pie with whiskey in it (YUMMY!). My mom also brought along a really good creamy horseradish sauce for the steak!

I didn’t miss the dry turkey or the mushing stuffing. I have also never been a fan of the cranberry sauce or any of the weird desserts of the “fluff” or jello and fruit variety. The only things I did miss were the squash (my grandma’s squash is amazing!) and the pumpkin pie (there were only three of us so 2 pies seemed like a but much and my dad doesn’t like pumpkin pie).

It was also good because they were gone by early afternoon and then I had the rest of the day to do laundry and homework. It was the most productive Thanksgiving I’ve ever had! What does your family do for Thanksgiving that isn’t traditional?

Stir Fry

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I think one of the best ways to, in my opinion, eat vegetables is a batch of stir fry. Most people eat stir fry with rice but I find that if there’s enough texture between the vegetables it is good by itself or with a chicken breast, which is good because that’s less carbs! Usually, I just put any vegetables I have in a pan with garlic and olive oil. But the best stir fry is planned because some vegetables take a really long to cook in a pan and some take a really short time so it is good to put things in the pan in a planned order.

I usually put the garlic and onions in first to get them to flavorize (yep…I just made up a word!) the entire dish. Then I put in potatoes, mushrooms, fresh brussel sprouts and carrots if I have any of those ingredients. Yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli, eggplant and cauliflower go in next. And finally kale, other greens and tomatoes go in right before everything else is done.

Other than the garlic I usually put in a bunch of hot sauce and sometimes I put chili powder on the potatoes! Stir fry is a really versatile entree because you can put anything into that you have. I have also put radishes and baby bok choi into a stir fry once. I’m not the biggest fan of making stir fry with meat in it, I usually just make a chicken breast to go with the stir fry. I am interested in trying tofu but am not sure if I should use the crumble or the cubes…any suggestions?

Harry Potter 7

>I had to write a short blog post about the Harry Potter 7 opening because I got to see it at a very nice theater. The Sundance Theater has a full service bar and restaurant in addition to the regular popcorn and soda. For the Harry Potter 7 release they had special smoothie flavors for each Harry Potter house, and HP themed appetizers and mixed drinks.

The thing I was most looking forward to seeing and possibly tasting was the Butter Beer. I thought it would be like tea or a butterscotch Italian soda but it was much worse than that…it was rootbeer with butterscotch flavoring in it…I didn’t try it because I’m not a fan of rootbeer but for some reason I thought it was going to be warm. Interesting how different people would make food from the same movie! The premiere was great despite the addition of HP themed food and drink!

Crock Pot #2

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So after my first attempt at using the crock pot (which wasn’t an exact failure…the dish was just really salty) I have made three more meals in my crock pot. The second one was a squash medley stew that had three types of squash, tomatoes, and some other vegetables in it. That turned out pretty good but was essentially a side so I had to make chicken or rice with it every time I wanted to eat the leftovers.

The third thing I made was chicken curry stew. I was a little skeptical about making this because I’m not the biggest fan of curry powder and it had a lot of it in the recipe (2 tbs.). So I decided to only put half in and replace the other half with garlic powder. Other than curry powder and garlic powder, the stew had chicken, chick peas, and tomatoes. When I walked in after classes and work my entire apartment smelled like garlic, which is good because I love garlic! The stew turned out to be really really good (with my garlic substitution of course!), especially after I drained some of the excess liquid off. I think next time, to make it have a little more depth I will add some frozen peas or green beans!

The fourth thing I made was Chicken Chili (see picture)…not the white creamy kind that a lot of people associated with chicken chili but a southwestern type of chili. It had chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, onions, pinto and hominy in it. I had no idea what hominy was so I Googled it and found that it is a form of processed corn…interesting. When I went to the grocery store I thought about just getting corn but the hominy was the same price so I decided to give it a try. After putting everything in the crock pot I decided, once again, that it needed more vegetables so I added a bunch of chopped up kale. The dish actually had a lot of flavor and a decent amount of spice after I added a squeeze of srachai! It was really good with some chunks of avocado or sour cream. When I made this again I will definitely replace the hominy with corn (it wasn’t bad just had a weird texture…almost like a bean), I will also replace the pinto beans with black beans, and continue to add something green (whether it be kale, peas, or green beans) and the srachai.

Frida’s

>This week I went to dinner with a bunch of friends from work. We went to Frida’s. I’ve never been to Frida’s, mostly because my freshman year everyone said the only reason to go to Frida’s was the fact that they have good, cheap margaritas and don’t card. So basically I never wanted to go based on the fact that I had never heard anything too positive about the actual food. So when I got the invite I was excited because I always wanted a reason to go other than the half-priced margaritas!

My first impression was that it was a lot bigger than I had pictured because when you walk by all you see is the bar area. But the entire restaurant opens up in the back to a big open space and second floor in the back. We were seated on the second floor which was pretty cool! The menu is pretty typical Mexican-American food with an entire page dedicated to tequila! I ordered a chicken fajita burrito (the only one at the table to order something other than a quesadilla). I always appreciate free chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants and Frida’s did not disappoint. The chips were really good but the salsa was a little lacking in spice for my taste and had a bit too much cilantro in it. My burrito was good…the chicken was grilled and the vegetables inside were very well seasoned. The sauce on top of the burritos was, again, lacking in spice but the refried beans were very good and it came with a good helping of rice, lettuce and sour cream.

The prices are a little high for traditional tex-mex food which made it absolutely necessary to fill up on chips and save the second half of my burrito for lunch the next day. All in all, it was good dinner and a great night out with the girls!